Thursday, December 30, 2010

Let the Games Begin- The World's First Strike of 2011!

1,100 unionised workers in SkyCity Casino, Auckland, are preparing for strike action on New Years Eve- to achieve a Living Wage of $15 ph for the starting rate. If in Auckland, come down and support the workers- txt Joe at (0064) 029 44 55 702 messages of solidarity.

or Leave your solidarity message HERE

from Unite union's Mike Treen-

SkyCity Casino in Auckland will be the scene of union organized action on January 1 starting immediately after the traditional fireworks display.

Unite and the Service and Food Workers Union are organizing a series of joint stop work meetings starting at 12.30am on New Year's day. The meetings will be voting on a resolution from the union negotiating team rejecting the company's offer in the Collective Agreement negotiations and empowering the unions to organize continuing industrial action until a suitable offer is received.

"This stop work meeting will the world's first industrial action in 2011", said Unite National Director and lead union negotiator Mike Treen. We are holding the meetings on New Year's day because by then the Collective Agreement will have expired and yet the company refused to allow the unions to consult their members on the company offer before that date.

"We had an agreement that the unions could hold meetings on December 29. The company reneged on that agreement when at the last minute they insisted that the meetings would only be allowed if we recommended the company offer. This was a blatant attempt to blackmail the union negotiating team who had unanimously rejected the offer from the company.

"The company offer is 3% a year for 3 years - take it or leave it. The company refused to discuss any other changes to the Collective Agreement. Major areas of disagreement couldn't be addressed in the negotiations. The areas included the fact that starting rates for many jobs are barely above the minimum wage, that frontline salaried staff are excluded from Collective Agreement coverage, that part time workers have no guarantee of regular hours or shifts, or the need to raise minimum wage to $15. The company wouldn't even agree to add clauses to the agreement reflecting changes in the law like the new flexible working hours law. They are one of the only casinos in the world that doesn't provide free meals and parking to staff yet won't agree to freeze these charges for the duration of the agreement.

"This is part of long standing campaign by the company to marginalise the union since the new management team took over a few years ago. This attitude was typified by the response of Grainne Troute the General Manager of Human Resources for SkyCity when asked if she considered unions a 'necessary evil'. She responded that the only word she disagreed with was 'necessary'!

"The company is now trying to bully staff into accepting the agreement or leaving the unions with completely false claims that the meetings are 'illegal' and any action will mean union members won't get any back pay on a settlement.

"These tactics will fail. The unions represent 1100 members - a majority of frontline staff. They are determined to get a better deal. This is a hugely profitable company with a virtual license to print money and yet pays new staff as little as $12.81 an hour - six cents above the minimum wage. It is a disgrace and should end."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day X3 - the day students shook the British Tory coalition

more breathtaking pictures of the X3 protests HERE

by Sadie Robinson

The vote on tuition fees in parliament last week showed British “democracy” is a hollow sham.

The Tories and their Lib Dem poodles voted to allow universities to charge up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees—despite huge opposition and previous Lib Dem promises to oppose fee rises.

Politicians don’t keep their promises, and they ignore, or attack, peaceful protests. No wonder that millions of students, and workers, are increasingly furious.

Students took over large parts of central London on the day of the vote as police lost control for the fourth time in a few weeks.

Thousands of protesters occupied Parliament Square. Police wanted to keep them out—but the students charged through the police lines.

It felt like a street party. Students chanted at parliament, “That’s not what democracy looks like—this is what democracy looks like” and “We’re young, we’re poor—we won’t pay any more!”

The smell of smoke filled the air as protesters let off flares. Music blared out and people lit fires to keep warm. Every few minutes came the sound of fireworks.

Then mounted police charged into the crowd—and the mood changed dramatically.

Jessica from Strode’s College near Windsor was two rows from the front when horses charged. She told Socialist Worker, “The police were vicious. People were crying because they couldn’t breathe. There were people knocked to the floor—yet the police were still pushing forward.”

A woman described how her friend, a student from Manchester university, had been taken to hospital with a broken collar bone after a police charge.

Her bag was splattered with blood—from the head wounds of other students.

Despite the brutality of the police, many protesters seemed fearless. They defended themselves with fences, concrete, breeze blocks and placard sticks.

Police told students that they were free to leave—but they were lying. They directed people to Whitehall, where more riot police and horses lay in wait.

Despite being surrounded by police, it felt like they were in control of the space. As one protester put it, “It feels like part of London belongs to us.”

“Dancing in the Moonlight” played on a sound system as fighting continued. Then students with a radio held a megaphone to it as the fees vote was announced. Boos echoed around the square.


Enraged students smashed windows of the Treasury building. A group of riot police moved in—only to find themselves surrounded by delighted students chanting, “Who’s kettling who?”

Police charged with batons and shields. One student lay motionless on the floor as others gathered around, calling for a medic and putting him in the recovery position.

Police chose this moment to charge again—pushing students onto the injured protester and unleashing a furious response that made them retreat. They forced a woman protester to the ground and batoned her. It wasn’t the first time that someone said, “Someone’s going to be killed.”

Despite their fear, people still fought back. Students used a piece of metal to batter through the doors of the Treasury and streamed in—to roars of support from the crowd. Others forced open windows from the outside and threw in fireworks.

They taunted police from the outside. When one cop lashed out with a baton through a Treasury window, a student grabbed it and held it aloft, to huge cheers.

Later students targeted the Supreme Court. And yet more protesters smashed windows at Topshop on Oxford Street and surrounded a car containing prince Charles and Camilla, chanting “Off with their heads!”

The protests weren’t mindless. Students targeted symbols of power and wealth because they are sick of living in a world where the rich get richer while everyone else suffers.

There was real class anger on the protests. As a group of students interviewed on BBC News said, “We’re from the slums of London. How can we afford £9,000?”

Many workers watching the march pass supported the students. “It’s their right to protest,” said Yilmaz, a street sweeper. “If I was a father, I’d be marching for my children.”

The fantastic student movement has shown the scale of anger at the government—and exposed its vulnerability.

Everyone needs to defend students against police and media attacks, build solidarity with them—and take the spirit of resistance into their workplaces.

The following should be read alongside this article:

Workers support for students is key

UCU union demands inquiry into policing of student protest

Where next for student movement?

Lib Dems in crisis - and what's Ed up to?

Student occupations have focused the struggle

Why top cop's head should roll

Monday, December 13, 2010

Matt McCarten- Unite and a New Left Party

Matt McCarten on Unite and the prospects for a new left party

Matt McCarten (right) campaigning for better pay.

December 7, 2010 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Matt McCarten is secretary of the New Zealand's fastest growing union, Unite. The union organises fast-food workers, cleaners, hotel and casino workers, security and part-time staff. It has a financial membership of 8000 members. The transient nature of the industries the union organises means it has an annual membership turnover of 66 per cent and recruits about 600 new members every month. The union operates on an income of just over 1 million dollars per annum.

McCarten is a veteran of many left campaigns, including playing a key role in the foundation of the New Labour Party following the split from the New Zealand Labour Party in 1989. It was his leadership in the historic 1985 occupation of the Sheraton Hotel with the Hotel and Hospital Workers Union that put McCarten in the national spotlight. He writes a weekly column for the Herald on Sunday.

Most recently McCarten contested the November 20, 2010, by-election in the parliamentary seat of Mana, north of Wellington. His campaign promoted three core policies – a minimum wage of $15 an hour, jobs for all unemployed and a fairer tax system without the regressive indirect goods and services tax (GST).

Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal’s Jody Betzien spoke to McCarten at the conclusion of Unite’s 2010 conference, held in Auckland, November 25-26.

* * *

Unite took a decision to organise workers in some sectors of the workforce, such as fast-food and service-sector workers, that had largely been left unorganised by the trade union movement.

It came more out of trial and error. Initially it was more like case work and people wanting help on individual sites. But that was going to run us broke and we certainly didn’t want to turn into a paralegal centre where workers with problems came; that’s not organising that’s servicing.

Then other unions would give us sites because they were choosing not to organise them. One time was at a clothing factory, with a lot of older workers, we couldn’t understand why our crew couldn’t get any traction there. So I went there and I sat down and listened to the workers; and then I realised what the problem was; they all had memories of unions where they had been disappointed. Stories like people who had been in a union for 12 years and they had never seen an organiser. It only takes one bad experience and it’s all over.

I realised that you are trying to deal with a de-unionised workforce and a lot of the older ones have got bad experiences.

I realised then that the future for the union movement and for the left is in the youth. Go to the youth and organise the youth. We started in the cinemas and now we have 50% of all the cinema workers in New Zealand in our union. We decided to target the bigger corporations because they are the ones setting the market rates.

So we went to the youth. The amazing thing was everyone I spoke to in the union movement said, “Organising among youth is a waste of time. You can’t do it, we’ve tried”.

But the concept of unionism among youth, despite youth being bought up in an individualistic society, was no problem. We were getting three out of four to join because they understood that we all need to get together in a union and help each other and protect each other, and we have more power. They built their own experience of unionism and now more and more are turning up in other unions having had a good experience with unite. So it’s more than about building Unite, it’s about creating the next generation of leaders.

Unite now has 8000 members and has staked out its place in the New Zealand union movement. The 2010 conference was held in November. What do you think the conference reflected about the development of the union?

We started off very very small. When I first got involved in the union it had about 70 members and most of those were in Wellington it wasn’t a union in the way we would understand one.

This conference was a watershed for Unite. Previously we have held regional AGMs and attendance was low. More of our members would turn out for strikes than meetings – they had got their priorities right. The level of experience of members was quite low and most of our delegates had never been in a union before.

At this conference most of our delegates were young and “people of colour” as they say and that reflects our membership. That was the most rewarding thing for me after a hard grind in a project where political leadership has been an important thing in this project. It hasn’t been a membership-driven thing, which you would expect when you start something.

What we saw at this conference in a real way is that the rank and file leaders are real and they are stepping up with their own plans about how they are organising across their industries – they are starting to see beyond their own worksites. This conference was the first time I have I got a sense of members taking ownership.

The second thing was that the delegates wanted to be part of the national leadership. There were 24 nominees for 10 roles, and there was a contested vice-presidency election. People were enthusiastic about taking on these roles and I don’t think there are many unions in New Zealand with this situation. I feel like we are now in a position where the union will start to be run by its rank and file leaders in a real way, not just in a formal way.

The conference set out some major campaign plans for 2011. Could you outline the plans?

We have coordinated all our major agreements that are up for negotiation to expire at the same time so that the workers will feel part of each others’ struggle. That is going to be important because in the end you’ve got to get the workers, as a class, to see their interests lie in more than just their own workplace.

We have some concrete demands for a minimum wage of $15 per hour. Almost all our members are part-time and/or casual workers, probably 95% – that is the new workforce of the working poor. We want full-time jobs. We want that, as they build their hours they keep them, and that’s a big demand. We have had a lot of successful campaigns in the past but this one is a particularly meaningful one because it is going to change the power relationship; because a lot of members get their hours reduced when they join the union or stand up for their rights.

We want to get the community involved in the campaign. We have coordinated the campaign around the Rugby World Cup, which is in New Zealand for about three months from June 2011. This event is considered a very important event for the country.

The workers are going to be doing all the work around the World Cup, mostly our members in the entertainment venues, hotel rooms, cinemas and cleaning. All these big companies that are going to make millions out of the World Cup are internationally owned. So there’s going to be an element of resentment that all of these profits are going to be shipped offshore.

The hotels are putting their prices up four to ten times the standard rate. They are going to be seen as grabbing as much as they can while the whole World Cup is being funded by the taxpayers, which means by the workers, of course. So the workers are funding this at the same time as the corporations are making huge profits, and the workers clean hotels on the minimum wage.

There will be a lot of public support for our campaign, I think. This is a political fight in the end, but it is with the employer in the first instance. If people get really strong and motivated about this campaign it can transform the working poor in the country. If we win this, that will change the way workers see themselves and I am looking forward to that.

The conservative National Party government led by John Key has introduced a series of changes to the industrial laws that make union organising more difficult, including increased restrictions on unions’ right of entry to workplaces and the ability of workers to take strike action. The laws also enable bosses to sack workers without a reason in the first 90 days of their employment. The laws present challenges to Unite, in particular due to their greater impact on organising in casualised and non-unionised sectors. How does Unite intend to deal with this.

In Australia, you have had these laws for a while. It's a new thing in New Zealand. We always had a probation period here, but the employer had to give a reason and follow a process. The new law says you can sack a worker without reason. So you think you’re doing well and then you get a text or an email that tells you not to come in tomorrow. Workers will be frightened about this and that is the government’s intent.

Our union has acted, and will continue to act, when workers are sacked under the 90-days rule. We have to ignore it, say we are not having a bar of it. Forget the law, forget the legal angle. I have never been a fan of that anyway.

With one large employer we already got rid of the 90-days clause from its agreement. And we will do the same with all our employers. I think that we have to mobilise the community around specific uses of this law and I think we can get people to realise these laws are bad.

Where we have been successful already on the non-unionised sites we have picketed the employer with the community and other unions. So far we have had a 100% success rate in resolving the issue.

At one franchisee of a fast-food chain the owners sacked a young woman on the 89th day because the previous day she had asked for her break because she hadn’t had one. She thought she was doing well; no one said she wasn’t up to it. Her mother phoned other unions and no one would would take up the case, and eventually it came to Unite. We then mobilised a picket.

We have formed something called the UTU Squad. UTU in Maori means putting things right or revenge. It also stands for Unite the Union. We have these placards that we use like shields and we have hard hats we put on. And we run these very aggressive pickets. We don’t let anyone through. We put them across the doors and no one gets through.

In this case we settled it. The young woman didn’t want to go back but she got compensation. But what was more important is we have rewritten the company’s agreement so the 90-days rule has gone and there is a procedure for new staff. They get evaluated every month and if there is a problem they have access to a process. That applies to 700 employees across 50 franchises. And I will be attending all their management training as part of the deal to tell the employers “if you do this to workers, we will screw you”. That is a first.

You contested the November 20, 2010, Mana by-election as in independent. What motivated you to run?

There are a number of threads. The main one is in terms of our union and our campaigns. We're running a $15 per hour minimum wage campaign; we ran a petition about this and we got 200,000 signatures supporting the campaign

In the by-election, the candidates were not talking about policy at all. None. That was annoying to me personally because it’s insulting to people.

So we ran to promote the union and its campaigns for the $15 per hour minimum wage, for 3000 full-time jobs in Mana because that is how many are unemployed in the electorate and get rid of the GST, which is a regressive tax and replace it with a progressive tax.

We also wanted to send a message to the Labour Party that it is timid, weak and gutless. That Labour has to learn to put up some policies that earn the respect of working-class people, when they claim to be workers’ party or at least a party that wants workers to support it. To some extent we wanted to embarrass them. It’s a safe Labour seat it takes for granted.

It was just assumed Labour would win at a sleep walk. When we came in it suddenly set the campaign alight.

And we did change the debate. We were doing very well, and in the last week the Labour Party machine came in and said a vote for Matt is a vote for letting the conservatives win. And it retrospect, if our vote had held up at about 10% of the vote, Labour would have lost. If Labour had lost the seat I would have told them them to go and look in the mirror. It’s now a marginal seat, Labour won it with just over a thousand votes. It was ninth safest seat in the country.

So hopefully they learn the lesson, you cannot take the working class for granted.

By the end of the campaign all the candidates were saying they supported our policy, because its got resonance in the electorate; there is no question of that. We had 50% of the homes we doorknocked sign the petition, and they knew it was the Matt McCarten and Unite petition. That was a big deal and shocked the other candidates, so they started to come out with weasel words about how they supported it, but not quite.

There has been discussion in the New Zealand left about whether or not there is space to found a new left party. What is your view of the political landscape and prospects for such a project.

Well, if the Labour Party is as far left as you go, naturally there is going to be a huge vacuum; working-class people are not represented in the electoral system. So of course there is a need for a left party. It's more about how you do that and the support for it.

I was president on the Alliance party for many years. It wasn’t socialist, though there were socialists in it. It was a left party. When we were [in parliament] Labour moved to the left. Now that we’re not, Labour has moved back to the right. In addition to electoral success, a party is about putting pressure on other parties to articulate working-class policies and concerns.

I think the left thinks too small; it’s very internal. And I think a lot of the left’s discussion inevitably goes into what I think are the smaller issues rather than the bigger picture. With the economic crisis moving around the world, and it will get here and to Australia too, if the left doesn’t get it’s act together and take responsibly in putting forward a serious left alternative then there will be a vacuum of leadership and there is a real possibility, like has occurred in the United States; that we get a “tea-bagger” type approach where working-class people go to parties on the right with more simplistic solutions. I think it is not a question of if the left should do it; it is just how.

There has been discussion through the Mana by-election about a plan for a new party. We didn’t raise it in a formal sense at our conference because I thought it was inappropriate; because it’s not a formal proposal at this stage. My sense was in Mana that working-class people responded very well around the issues that concern them. And certainly some of the delegates, some of the younger ones elected onto our executive, are very excited about the idea of a real workers’ party. Certainly our leadership collectively is open to it; there is no question about that. It’s about inspiring others to step up. A former NZ Green Party MP, Sue Bradford, has given her support to the idea.

It may be that the time has come [for a new left party], but we have to take it very seriously, because it is not just a matter of announcing it and “capturing yourself”; we’ve all had experiences of that. So it has to be real, and real in that it has to be down with workers’ struggle, not about them, and not “we are going to represent you”. It’s got to be of the working class, and its activist base has got to be working-class people too.

What I do know is that in Mana, working-class people loved our policies. They were warm to us.

What also surprised us was that the white working class were also positive. I have not seen that before, none of the left groups or the Alliance ever won that constituency. And of course we got a lot of warm support from Maori [New Zealand’s Indigenous people], perhaps that is not a surprise, myself being Maori and have having done a lot of Maori work. from Maori.

For me, I went through a period when I didn’t do any political work, in my early 20s. I thought we could just do it without politics. Then, we did it through the New Labour Party and then the Alliance party, which I was president of. And that just turned into electoralism. When that project ended, for me, after all those years of experience, I had a very firm view that first of all you have got to build support in our constituency, the working poor. You have got to put the time in, you have to do the work. It’s their struggle, it’s my struggle. And earn the right. Not as some NGO group that comes and helps the workers. We are organising workers; they must lead themselves. Unless you do that prior to doing the political work then who are you representing? I think with the Unite project we have earned the right. It is seen as being staunch, principled and fighting for workers.

One of the teachers who was here at our conference said that when the teachers were asking students at her school what a union was, there were two things the students said, “Unite and $15 per hour.” That’s got to be a good sign.

By organising workers and doing the work, you earn the right to take the next steps. It is going to be challenging but probably the best years of our lives. Sue Bradford and I had a discussion about this and agreed “wouldn’t it be marvellous to be part of a working-class movement where you didn’t have to watch what you said”.

That was the great thing about the Mana campaign, I could just say what I believed in. And for working-class people that it is a breath of fresh air to them. They want to talk about the issues I want to talk about: the state creating employment when there is unemployment, everyone getting the dignity of work. We have to legislate incomes up because the market won’t do it. The GST is a rip-off. People were getting it. If we can do more of that I think the left and people who care about social justice will have a very good period.

[A shorter version of this interview appeared in Green Left Weekly.]

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Divine intervention and the Key welfare agenda

by Sue Bradford at

Comments from the Prime Minister suggest that the government's willingness to act tough on welfare may go a lot further than many expect

What is the real Key agenda on welfare reform?

It could be a lot scarier than media commentators and the public think.

So far, knowledgeable types on the parliamentary circuit, for example John Armstrong in a recent article, question whether tough recommendations from the Government Welfare Working Group will actually ‘sit easily with the Prime Minister’s more centrist disposition.’

How centrist John Key actually is on welfare is now very open to question.

When Anglican Bishop Muru Walters took part in a church leadership delegation to the Prime Minister in late November, he presented Mr Key with a copy of the first report from the Alternative Welfare Working Group: Welfare justice in New Zealand: what we heard.

The PM’s response to the gift of the report, as relayed by the Bishop in the foreword to the final Welfare Justice report launched last week, was, in total, “Is welfare sustainable? No!”

The second indication of what the PM might really be thinking comes from further feedback from the same meeting, picked up by myself on the Wellington grapevine last week.

Among other comments made to the church leaders that day, John Key is reported to have said, “If we cancelled welfare to 330,000 people currently on welfare, how many would starve to death? Bugger all.”

Clearly the PM does not personally give a damn about the fate of working age beneficiaries – or their children.

From the point of view of the rich, anything that doesn’t benefit them is not sustainable.

This Government appears to neither know nor care that it is not welfare expenses that are likely to spiral out of control between now and 2050, but superannuation, health and Government financing costs, as per a 2009 report from Treasury itself.

Benefit levels are already too low for most people to survive on without a pile of supplementary allowances, and without going ever deeper into debt.

For anyone who doubts this, consider living on rates such as these (if you’re not already):

  • single 19 year old on unemployment benefit: $161.76 per week;
  • married couple on sickness benefit: $194.12 per week;
  • sole parent on DPB: $278.04 per week;
  • married couple on sickness or unemployment benefit: $323.52 per week.

Yet Mr Key appears quite relaxed about taking things even further.

Without any welfare in this country, the scenario is likely to look something like this:

  • Charitable organisations expected to feed the ‘deserving’ poor – aided perhaps by a return to the Victorian workhouse system;
  • Further budget blowouts on police, justice and prison budgets, as people engage in all manner of crime simply to feed themselves and their children;
  • A huge increase in illhealth and addictions among the destitute and their families, in some cases leading to death – but meanwhile creating a massive burden on health and child welfare services already creaking at the seams;
  • Beggars in the streets, homelessness at levels we can’t imagine, and -- for some -- starvation.

Because I trust my sources, I believe that at heart, John Key really would be quite comfortable with such a dystopian future.

Of course, he won’t go there yet. I have enough faith in the good hearts of most New Zealanders to believe that the electorate won’t put up with it.

However, what his comments to the church leaders signify is that he is serious about cutting welfare costs by cherry picking whichever recommendations of the Rebstock Welfare Group will best meet his goals when that group makes its final report in February 2011.

Jim Bolger was a National Prime Minister who presided over some of the worst attacks on beneficiaries in recent times. He is also a sincere Catholic, and eventually he dropped Ruth Richardson as Finance Minister and softened down some of his policies, reputedly in part because of pressure from church leaders.

Whether Bolger did enough in the end to redeem himself is not something you or I will ever know, but there is no hope of this happening with John Key.

He is a man without visible values, a gambler who only knows and cares about the game.

The possibility of divine intervention looks remote, unless it comes from Bill English, who as far as I know is still a devout Catholic.

The problem is that we have a PM who believes in nothing more than maximising self fulfillment through money and power, and whose current life consists of playing games with our money and our lives.

It is terrifying that we are at the mercy of a gambler who is willing to take a punt on whether people will starve to death if he reduces or cuts off income support altogether.

Policy making in a decent, fair society shouldn’t be a series of gambles – it should be based on objective analysis and sound policy advice, just what the Government isn’t getting from Rebstock Welfare Working Group.

For those of us who care about what happens to those who have least in our society, these are ominous times indeed.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Racism in Aotearoa today- UNite on Campus forum video

A video of the anti racist forum organised by Unite on Campus, Auckland
with Lei Jin, Chinese Workers Association; John Minto, Global Peace and Justice; Nicola Owen, Socialist Aotearoa and Mohsen al Attar, Lecturer in International law, Auckland University
and opponent of Islamophobia.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Ireland on the Edge- a revolution televised

As Ruling Class hegemony collapses and the Government parties face annihilation in a January election, the working class of Ireland brace for the IMF Budget on December 7th. Radicals in the new United Left Alliance plan to lay siege to the Dail, the Irish Parliament, on that night. Ireland totters on the brink- here is the seeds of a revolution televised. Sit back and watch this hour of footage- of the 100,000 trade unionists who marched against the IMF, of the sell out trade union leaders booed and ridiculed by angry workers, the bravery of the students who occupied the Department of Finance and faced the cavalry charges, batons and alsatian dogs of a brutal police force-

beware the Risen people.

United Left Alliance
Uploaded by DSN2010. - Watch the latest news videos.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The courage to resist – how a 22 year old changed the world

"God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. If not … than we're doomed as a species. I will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens." - Bradley Manning

Behind the headlines of the Wikileaks leak of a quarter of a million cables is one of the most remarkable tales of our generation. It is fascinating to watch as the full extent of the cables leak becomes known and as the global public begins to realise the full extent of the atrocities and ironies of the United States imperial reach.

Noam Chomsky has rightly said that Wikileaks shows us, “That one of the major reasons for government secrecy is to protect the government from its own population”. As Chomsky has also said, “Perhaps the most dramatic revelation, or mention, is the bitter hatred of democracy that is revealed both by the U.S. Government – Hillary Clinton, others – and also by the diplomatic service.”

As the newspaper pages fill in coming weeks and months with the details of more and more of the leaked documents the world will undoubtedly change. We can only hope that more and more residents of planet earth wake up to realize just how blood soaked and opportunist the US empire really is. We must also hope that more and more of us realise just how great a gift Bradley Manning has just given our world.

Bradley, a US intelligence analyst working in Baghdad and the alleged leaker of the diplomatic cables and thousands of other documents concerning the Iraq and Afghanistan war, was arrested in May 2010 by American authorities after being betrayed by a hacker. Facing up to 52 years in jail, Bradley, at just 22 years of age has undertaken one of the more courageous acts in order to ensure the people of the world can see and know the dark side of the US empire.

The transcripts of the instant messaging chats between Bradley and the hacker who betrayed him give an unusual glimpse into the soul of Bradley and can only inspire a sense of confidence in the humanity and courage of this man. Bradley best represents the motto of wikileaks that “Courage is contagious”. Quickly we have seen the editorials by corporate newspapers and the columns hastily written by US ambassadors arguing that this leak represents a massive threat to diplomacy, to human life and to history itself. Instead our editorials should ask why it took a 22 year old to expose the travesties of our time? Are those aged over 30 so timid and spineless that they dare not stand up for what they believe in?

Let it be said and said again that there would be no war, no human rights abuse, no autocracy and tyranny if Bradley’s courage swept across the globe faster than swine flu. The despotic Arab dictators, the repressive Asian juntas, the fanatical European financer capitalists wouldn’t last a second if every human was prepared to stand up and say enough. We can only hope that the global revolt that Bradley could inspire doesn't have as its soundtrack the song that he lipsynched as he copied the myriad of secret files from the military database he had access to.

As Bradley Manning said,
“I think the thing that got me the most… that made me rethink the world more than anything was watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police… for printing “anti-Iraqi literature”… the Iraqi Federal Police wouldn’t cooperate with US forces, so I was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the “bad guys” were, and how significant this was for the FPs… It turned out, they had printed a scholarly critique against Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki… I had an interpreter read it for me and when I found out that it was a benign political critique titled “Where did the money go?” and following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet I immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on. He didn’t want to hear any of it. He told me to shut up and explained how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees. Everything started slipping after that, I saw things differently. I had always questioned the things worked, and investigated to find the truth, but that was a point where I was a *part* of something, I was actively involved in something that I was completely against.”
As Bradley says about his former colleagues, “Most didnt care… but i knew, i was playing a role in the lives of hundreds of people, without them knowing them… but i cared, and kept track of some of the details, make sure everybody was okay.” Bradley’s humanist leanings and anti-authoritarian nature meant he snapped far quicker than most in his environment. Releasing the documents he hoped to give the world a “public good” that could be used to make informed decisions. As Bradley goes on, “i dont believe in good guys versus bad guys anymore… only a plethora of states acting in self interest… with varying ethics and moral standards of course, but self-interest nonetheless.”

A queer army officer who had survived growing up in a town with more “pews than people” where he refused to recite the religious parts of the pledge of allegiance and then becoming a minimum wage retail worker living in his car after being kicked out of home for being gay, Bradley didn’t owe the world much. Yet with his courage he has shown that one person can change history and that we all have a role to play in defending democracy, freedom and peace from the tyrants and bureaucracies of the world.

Even now as some bay for Bradley’s blood, let us hope that in Bradley’s actions we find the courage to renew our own activism to end the carnage and the chaos that the governments of the world create and which we and our brothers and sisters from Baghdad to Boston and from Kabul to Kiribati must bear.

As so many sit idly by while so much devestation is done, let’s hope that Bradley gives more of us the courage to resist.

Commentary- Omar Hamed

Austerity on steroids -

Protesters in Dublin march against the government's plan for deep cuts in public services (William Murphy)

Protesters in Dublin march against the government's plan for deep cuts in public services (William Murphy)

FIRST, THE government devotes enormous sums to bailing out the banks. That causes budget deficits to balloon. Then the government imposes austerity by cutting wages, raising regressive taxes and slashing social spending.

This is the essence of what happened in Ireland to lead to the approximately $114 billion "rescue" of the economy by the European Union (EU). The same happened to Greece before Ireland, and the dynamics have been similar in the U.S. and other countries.

It's an international drive to impose austerity--from European bureaucrats twisting arms in Dublin and Athens, to the bipartisan gang in the U.S. that wants to carve up Social Security and Medicare. The same people who spared no expense when the banks were in trouble now want working people to pay for it all.

The EU's deal for Ireland, reached November 21, could fall apart if the Irish parliament, the Dail, fails to approve a proposed austerity budget in a vote set for December 7. But if it does fail, the "troika" of the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will keep up the pressure.

The terms of the Irish deal were complicated by political considerations in both Ireland and across Western Europe. But its goal was not in question. Irish workers, who had supposedly escaped a long history of colonialism and poverty thanks to the roaring "Celtic Tiger" economy of the 1990s are now being told that they must give back the gains of those years--and then some.

The IMF's proposal? Cut the minimum wage and reduce unemployment benefits--for starters. The government is complying with a proposed budget that includes a 12 percent reduction in the minimum wage, cuts in welfare spending of between 5 and 10 percent and a 5 percent cut in weekly unemployment benefits. Groups that get government funds to work with people with disabilities were told to expect cuts of 20 percent, and an unstated number of public-sector jobs will be cut.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE IRISH economy has been a ticking time bomb since October 2008, when the government stepped forward to guarantee the transactions of the Irish banks, which had become huge in proportion to the economy of a country with a population of only about 4.5 million people.

Ireland's low corporate tax rate of 15 percent had made the country an attractive destination for foreign direct investment by big U.S. and European companies. At the same time, Ireland used its membership in the EU to attract financial capital, while offering tax breaks similar to the notorious offshore banking centers of the Caribbean.

To try to preserve all that, the Irish state gave its unconditional backing to the banks after the crash on Wall Street and other world financial centers. The British, German, French and U.S. governments--as well as those of smaller countries like Greece--were compelled to do essentially the same thing.

The problem for Ireland was that its political leaders had bitten off far more than the small country could chew. Before the EU rescue deal, the Irish government had predicted that it would spend a total of $60 billion to bail out the banks--a huge amount for an economy with an annual gross domestic product (GDP) of $228 billion. In fact, the assets of Ireland's private banks are five times bigger than the country's GDP.

As was the case in Greece earlier this year, speculators concluded that Ireland would eventually be unable to fully repay its debts. As Alen Mattich wrote on his blog at the Wall Street Journal Web site, "When Ireland's banks were threatened by depositor runs during the early days of the credit crunch, the government stepped in to guarantee the sector's liabilities. A huge burden of private-sector Irish debt suddenly became public."

As a consequence, interest rates on Irish government bonds eventually spiked upward, which threatened to cripple state finances. Still, Irish political leaders resisted a rescue. That's because Germany and France were demanding that, as a condition for receiving the money, Ireland must raise its corporate tax rate to increase revenue to repay its debt--which would just so happen to take away Ireland's competitive advantage with...Germany and France. Britain went along.

At the same time, the biggest EU countries are desperate to prevent Ireland's banks from triggering a domino effect across the continent. According to the Bank for International Settlements, British banks hold about $131.6 billion in Irish debt, and their German counterparts are on the hook for $138.6 billion. French banks have $43.6 billion, and for U.S. banks, the figure is $57 billion.

In the end, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen of the Fianna Fail party claimed that Ireland had retained its corporate tax rate in negotiations over the terms of the bailout. How long that will last is another question. Ireland has effectively lost control of its finances to European bureaucrats and the IMF.

What's left for the Irish government is to draw up plans to further downsize social spending and cut the consumption of working people. Emigration from Ireland, which had stopped during the go-go years of the 1990s, is already on the rise, thanks to a 13 percent unemployment rate--an estimated 100,000 people are expected to leave the country by 2014.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE IRISH meltdown came despite the creation earlier this year of the $589 billion European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). The EFSF was part of a $950 billion pool of money rounded by European governments in May to try to stop the Greek financial crash from spreading to other heavily indebted countries--not only Ireland, but also Portugal, Spain and Italy.

By creating this emergency fund, European leaders were trying to make an implicit guarantee of those countries' debts without having to actually fork over the money. The idea was that the very existence of the fund would stabilize the situation.

Of course, it hasn't worked out that way. Greece, despite a savage series of cutbacks, still won't be able to meet its debt obligations and is stumbling towards an almost certain partial default on its debts sometime in the next few months. Ireland, although it had cash on hand to cover its obligations for the near future, was increasingly seen by investors as a similar risk. The wealthier European governments--in particular, Germany--will therefore have to pay up.

In return for its money, Germany is demanding that the entire economies of Greece and Ireland must be subordinated to repay those debts. France and Britain are going along, too, since, like Germany, they fear that even a partial default on Greek and Irish debt could bring down banks that are still vulnerable from the crash of 2008. Nevertheless, though German Chancellor Angela Merkel is using the IMF and politicians from other European countries as debt collectors so as to avoid allegations of German aggression, Germany is calling the shots.

The problem for Greece and Ireland is that they are chained to Germany through a common currency, the euro. Normally, heavily indebted countries going through recession will try to devalue their currencies in order to make their exports less expensive on the world market and reduce their debt in real terms.

In fact, that's exactly what Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke is attempting to do with the U.S. dollar.

But as long as Greece and Ireland remain in the euro, they will be forced to carry out what economists call an "internal devaluation"--a severe cut in wages and social spending to try to lower labor costs.

The problem in Greece is that austerity is causing the economy to shrink even further, making it virtually impossible for the government to pay off its debts, which now stand at 126.8 percent of GDP--much worse than 115.1 percent that the government anticipated in April.

Sooner or later, Greece will be forced to ask its creditors to accept less than full payment on its debt--a prospect that instilled fear into European financial markets in October and led to the panic over Ireland. When German politicians argued that private bondholders would ultimately have to take some losses on European government debt, the panic intensified. It was only then that the big European governments closed ranks and made Ireland an offer it couldn't refuse.

But the Irish bailout won't solve the underlying problems. No matter how deep the cuts, Ireland has little more chance of making good on its debts than does Greece. And still looming on the horizon are similar problems in Portugal--and far more serious ones in Spain and Italy.

In this context, a move by any country to partially default on its debts could trigger a financial crisis as banks are forced to write down the value of their loans. On the other hand, the failure to make bondholders absorb at least some losses will only mean more government funds flowing into the black holes of loss-ridden banks. As an editorial in the Financial Times put it, "If public money is again used just to buy time, the problem will soon return, more contagious than ever."

But just because austerity measures can't solve this crisis doesn't mean the politicians won't impose them anyway. As European and U.S. capitalists fumble for a long-term solution, they'll continue to increase the pressure on workers and push the costs of the crisis onto them.

In the U.S., austerity is already being carried out piecemeal at the state and local level--tens of thousands of teachers and other public-sector employees have lost their jobs due to budget cuts. These cutbacks were an unstated policy of the Obama administration, which failed to include sufficient aid to state governments in the stimulus package passed in early 2009.

Now, with Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives, austerity will be front and center in U.S. politics for the foreseeable future. The heads of the bipartisan commission on deficit reduction have already published their hit list of programs to cut--coinciding with an ideological blitz in the media about how we've all been living beyond our means, and it's time for shared sacrifice.

The reality is that in the U.S., as in Ireland, there's always enough money to prop up the bankers. But when the needs of working people are at stake--needs that have been dramatically increased by the impact of the recession--we're told to make do with less.

This international squeeze on workers will continue until labor and social movements are strong enough to pose a challenge. The mass strikes in Greece and France in recent months have shown the potential to resist, and protests in Ireland are now gearing up, too. The crisis continues--and so must the struggle.

From: Socialist

Defending Porirua!

Commentary: Lisa Stoneham, Unite Delegate, Porirua

As a Porirua local, I didn’t know much about the by elections that were coming up. When Omar mentioned the by election to me, at that stage I didn’t even think I was going to vote as at this time I did not know I couldn’t vote due to being on the maori electoral roll. I didn’t know anything about those running and I only thought it was Hekia Parata and Kris Faafoi anyway. All I saw around was billboards with their faces and party name.

I didn’t think anything else of the conversation with Omar or the by election.

Some time later Shanna said to me on facebook, watch the news tomorrow. She wouldn’t tell me why. I found out later on that night though. I can’t remember what my initial reaction was but I think I was a bit surprised in a good way.

As a member of Unite Union, my support for Matt McCarten from the beginning may have been biased but it was soon apparent to me and I believe to many others as well, this new runner to the by election wasn’t just running as a pretty face and campaigned for change. His billboards had his policies on them, the reason as to why people should vote for him. No other billboards had that.

It was only due to Matt’s campaign I became aware of how many and who was actually running in the Mana by election.

But only Matt's policies made a difference to working class people

Then during the campaigning, a public meeting was held outside my neighbours house. This is when the housing problem became apparent. Campaigners had counted many empty state houses while out door knocking. My parents live in my garage as Housing New Zealand has refused to help them.

This was when the house take over occurred with the original plan to stay in the house until election day although this was not meant to be due to a disgruntled local, rumor has it, it is the now unemployed, former deputy mayor of Porirua.

While this was the most out there thing done by campaigners so far, it got people talking.Some good and some bad but the Matt McCarten name was getting out there. And Matt was building a base of his own.

I was continuing to hear stories of what Matt's campaign had been doing, which included successfully getting 2 people into Housing New Zealand houses as they were on the waiting list with no apparent houses available. And Matt’s campaigners were pulling out protests all over the place, including outside Countdown for the GST Policy Matt had put forward.

I only got the opportunity to go door knocking once. I received no negative feedback from people. The biggest thing I came across was people not understanding how his policies could possibly work which was easily sorted.

In the last week of the campaigning I became sick so wasn’t able to help as much as I wanted too. But one particular day, campaigners were out in North City Plaza. Hekia Parata was having a meet and greet with ‘locals’, well John Key with Hekia Parata trailing behind him anyway as part of her campaign. When Matt’s campaigners confronted John Key and Hekia Parata about what they were going to do, John and Hekia avoided actual questions and quickly high tailed it out of North City Plaza. It was quite amusing to watch. It was the only time I actually saw Hekia campaigning. The only time I saw Kris Faafoi campaign was when he was standing by the roundabout holding a sign hoping for toots of support from the people driving by. I did not see anyone else.

So while Matt McCarten received 816 votes on the day, this is quite a good result for 3 weeks campaigning. But I believe if the Maori were able to vote, this number would have been a lot higher. There is a lot of support for Matt within the Maori community.

The Mana By-Election. An insider’s view

Commentary- Shanna Olsen Reader, Unite Delegate and Matt4Mana activist

A lot has been said on Matt McCartens Mana by-election campaign, but unfortunately mostly from people who had little to no input or in fact any actual experience of it at all.

I took annual leave from my Administrator job to spend three weeks volunteering in Porirua. I walked the streets, I knocked on doors, and I shook hands with the people. I made real connections with residents and they were kind enough to give me their time and tell me their stories. If anyone should be commenting on Matt’s campaign it should be the people who were there on the ground.

This is the real story of the Mana by-election.

Matt McCarten gave people a choice. A real choice. 800 people took that opportunity and voted for him on polling day. We didn’t need catchy slogans or a drive-by loudspeaker at 8 in the morning to get our votes. We ran that campaign on the bones of our asses out of a makeshift office in the Porirua mall and got 800 votes in 3 weeks. In 3 weeks we went from being unknowns to being recognised as affiliated with the candidate the locals affectionately referred to as the “minimum wage man.”

In 3 weeks I door knocked thousands of houses in Titahi Bay, Waitangirua, Cannons Creek, Pukerua Bay, and Elsdon. In those thousands of houses I had a grand total of 3 people who weren’t interested in what I had to say. 3 solitary people. Half of the houses we door knocked signed our petition for a $15 minimum wage, 3000 jobs for Mana and No GST.

We had people walk in off the street and volunteer. One man bicycled from Auckland to door knock the whole of Linden. One elderly gentleman leafleted every house in Whitby by himself. We had good solid policies. We didn’t need an established party or massive funding behind us. We were lucky to have a team of volunteers from all walks of life, but at the end of the day we were all there for the same thing. To give the people of Mana a choice.

We were never going to change the world in those three weeks. But we did change Mana. 800 people voted for Matt on polling day. Most of which had never heard of him before he stood as a candidate. 800 individuals took a risk and voted for Matt. No he didn’t win, but then again those of you who know Matt will know that was never the point, or the aim. In those three weeks the other candidates went from kissing babies to being forced to actually think, to strategise, and to debate politics the old fashioned way instead of just relying on their lovely smiles to do the work for them. 800 people- that's not something to sniff at. I challenge anyone to gather together a rag-tag band of dreamers, limited funding and get 800 votes in 3 weeks.

I must say that even though I attended most of the candidate debates I still cannot recall any actual policies Labour or National came up with. I hope now that Faafoi has won he might think of some. This would have been an easy ride for Faafoi if Matt hadn’t entered the race. I noticed an improvement in him as the campaign went on and I think he will be a better politician for it. I just hope that he knuckles down and makes some real and measureable improvements for the people in his electorate before the next election. You just never know who could come out of the wood work next time around.

We won’t forget about Mana and the people we met there. The foundations have been laid and the people are ready to stand up. When they do we will stand with them, and more people will follow. That is when the real wins will be made.

Whether commentators consider the campaign a success, a failure or simply an amusing experiment my personal opinion is that it was truthfully the best three weeks I have spent in a long time, and possibly the most worthwhile thing I have done to date. The simple fact that it got so many people talking means that we made a difference. And the very fact that you have spent time reading this only goes further to prove my point.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Solidarity with the Pike River Miners and their families

'The victims of industrialism are more numerous than the victims of war.' - Ruskin.

Socialist Aotearoa sends its love and solidarity to the families of the Pike River Miners tonight, as they await news about their loved ones. The Miners are the backbone of the New Zealand working class, and they deserve the best of health and safety. One single life is not worth the millions the companies make from the sweat of the miners brow-

Joe Carolan, on behalf of Socialist Aotearoa

A dirge for the miners, the brave Huntly miners,
O'erwhelmed in the drive, where they labour'd for bread;
No more shall we see them, no more shall we hear them;
In the pride of their manhood, all crushed down and dead.
Sleep on, O brave comrades; your life's work is ended—
The breadwinner's sailed to a far distant shore;
Unflinching you laboured, for home and for kindred;
And now all your sorrows in this world are o'er.
O, think of their kindred--their nearest and dearest—
Their wives and their offspring, lamenting, and then
Hark! hark to the wailing, the fierce, bitter wailing,
The weeping of women, the sobs of the men!
Mourn, mourn for the miners, entombed 'neath the timbers;
Hot tears for our comrades, all mangled and torn;
And a curse for the system--the mad, cruel system—
That gathers its strength from the slaughtered and shorn!
For ages the workers have toiled on--have toiled on,
While Do-Noughts grew wealthy, without work at all;
And thousands received for a lifetime of bondage
Our dead comrades' wages--the earth for a pall!
Work on, then, O millions, in darkness and sorrow;
Be earnest and dauntless--the time yet shall come
When the gold-hunt that lures you will end with the morrow,
And a new hope arise like the throb of a drum! –

Arthur Desmond, 10 Jan 1891
[The Huntly (near Auckland) mine disaster occurred on 22 Dec 1890.]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

on Saturday, A New Left Votes

Commentary- Joe Carolan

As the Battle of Mana draws to an end, a real victory has already been won. For the last month, the Serious Left in Aotearoa has united in struggle and put in the mahi, fighting on issues that concern working people and that embarass the party apparatchiks from Labour and National.

What the final tally will be for Matt McCarten's insurgent campaign, only Saturday can tell. But the New Left has fought hard for every vote it gets, whether high in the hills of Tawa or in the heart of Cannon's Creek. Even those undecided about voting for Matt have supported his radical programme for full employment, higher incomes and tax justice. As he said himself- "If the people of Mana voted for what they wanted- we'd win by a landslide."

Another real victory that has been won is one for democracy itself. Rather than explain why their party does not support radical change, Labour have been pushing the line that a vote for Matt splits the Left. And they are noticably nervous about this- they are drafting in hundreds of volunteers, activists and union organisers for the last few days, and their more uncouth supporters are beginning to lose their tempers. And there's a real reason why.

Amongst the staunch working class, there's a realisation that Phil Goff ain't gonna win the national election in 2011. Labour are too soft, and are bereft of any tangible policies that make a difference to the working class. Their candidate, Kris Faafoi, was imposed on the local organisation from Goff's office, and has barely been in the party for a year. Many workers see through the cynical tokenism from Labour HQ.

The days of the Left being a One Party State are over, whether in the unions or in the political field. We're going to need a REAL resistance movement when National win in 2011.
As Labour stays firmly in the political centre, it needs to learn one lesson-

We're not splitting the Left vote- we ARE the Left vote.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Matt for Mana TV on Housing

Bulldoze Cannons Creek say Porirua Police

“It’s lovely up here eh. All these neat rows of homes under those rolling green hills,” I said to my arresting officer as we drove up Warspite Avenue, Cannons Creek.

“It’d be nice if they bulldozed all the houses. No one wants to live here,” replied the women police sergeant as she turned her head to check out a couple of hoodied young men next to a takeaways.

I was shocked by what she said and then the radio crackled to life and the sergeant rapidly relayed to another unit the basic information about the known troublemaker she had seen hanging out outside the shops. The kid she’d been discussing soon ended up in the cells with us.

This is war- Porirua style. Within minutes of 3News airing a piece on our state housing occupation, four cop cars were outside and a dog handler was first on scene asking me where the burglary was.

There was no burglary just four young men getting arrested for protesting for better housing in a city where a quarter of children grow up in overcrowded homes while dozens of state houses lie empty. Where rheumatic fever rates are the highest in the developed world while vacant Housing Corp blocks that were meant to be built on years ago are still pushing up daisies.

We’d just squatted a house to highlight the plight of Carolyn, who lives with her partner in her daughters garage. The garage is cold, leaks and is unventilated. Carolyn has asthma that the gas heater and damp conditions exacerbates. Carolyn works hard cleaning homes for ACC claimants. Her partner works for a local light manufacturing company. He has been hard done by in a couple of jobs, took one trucking company all the way to the Employment Court for paying him below minimum wage. Carolyn’s daughter has been sacked under the 90 day no rights law. They are a typical working class family living in Porirua. Poor in wealth but rich in spirit. They are involved in the community, volunteer their time, active in local unions and kura kaupapa.

But we shouldn’t have to be here doing this. Twenty something year olds having to squat an abandoned house to draw attention to families down the road living in garages. Everyone needs a home and property developers who can make mills out of making another McMansion will never provide humane, accommodation at affordable prices for the working poor. How long will the state let people sleep rough, in cars or in garages? Too long. We need a political alternative. We need direct action. We need to unite and fight against a system that lets people rot and then hires an army of blue uniformed mercenaries who think that the country they occupy needs to be bulldozed.

My arresting officer wants to tell me about how tough her job is, about attending suicides and the human misery she encounters. Yet she sees just one side of the creek. For two weeks we’ve been doorknocking through this area and we’ve met hundreds if not thousands of lovely people. Hardworking New Zealanders and loyal union militants raising their families as best they can but outraged at the hidden fees of sending children to public schools. Old Pacifica men reading newspapers in the early evening as their grandchildren are busy in the kitchen. Burmese refugees enrolling to vote on the doorstep of their modest homes, but determined to never again be denied their right to a political opinion. 18 year olds who work at the local mall and are doing their best to move ahead in life by studying part time. Proud families that decorate the entranceway to their house with their children’s school certificates. Local tradespeople who want to work but can’t find a job when the employers find out they are over 50. The bouncer who has just come off nightshift but has been thinking about the local by-election. The older Scottish couple from Mungavin who’ve made this beautiful suburb their home, so far from Glasgow.

In the late afternoons as we tread another mile under our shoes in this campaign, we see the younger kids running around the yard, the older kids wandering home after a hard days work at high school, the men and women who arrive home exhausted from a day delivering the post or fixing the roads. For all these people the Creek is home. To the cops these people and their homes are just trouble, a permanent crime scene that needs to be destroyed. As the cop said, “No one who lives here does so because they want to”. Safer communities together? Not a chance. The views of the cop are a window to the real lack of control the Cannons Creek community have over the police.

Six hours later we were released on some bogus charges that will get thrown out or dropped pretty quickly. Yet after tomorrow, when days become weeks and months become years, the war on the poor in Cannons Creek will continue. The houses will rot, the people will decompose and the cops will patrol the ruins of a country that people in the 19th century thought would become a socialist paradise. As we head deeper into the 21st century it is clear that for the majority of New Zealanders the future will be the nightmare capitalism of poverty wages, substandard accommodation and the grim barking of police dogs in the night.

-- Omar Hamed, Socialist Aotearoa

Matt for Mana- The Rent is Too Damn High

3News story HERE

"The State will let working class people wait on housing lists for seven years. Occupy an empty house and they'll arrest you in seven minutes. " said Unite union's Matt McCarten tonight, after learning that four state housing activists were arrested in Cannon's Creek at an election action.

The volunteers had occupied the abandoned house to draw attention to the plight of people suffering from inadequate housing in Porirua. They were cleaning and repairing the house for a couple, Carolyn Harvey and her partner Ron , who currently live in a garage when police stormed into the house without warning and arrested them.

"We'll be rallying at a barbeque outside the house in Calliope Crescent this Saturday from 12 till 2pm- and we're asking everyone in the Mana electorate who has problems with Housing New Zealand to come to the barbeque so we can write down and process their complaints."

"State houses are collapsing. Tenants have to pay for repairs themselves. And the rent is too damn high. It's clear these bureacrats have failed and its time for action" said Mr McCarten.

Join Matt's facebook group HERE

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Monday, November 08, 2010

Housing is a right, not a privilege

At the end of the first week of Matt McCarten's campaign in the Mana by-election we come across a family living in a garage while there are three empty state houses just a block away.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Battle of Mana

Commentary: Joe Carolan

In the working class streets of Porirua, hundreds of workers and residents are already backing the demands raised by Matt McCarten’s campaign for tax justice, full employment and a living wage.

Dino, a member for MUNZ living in Calliope Crescent, has been on the picket lines in Napier in 2007 defending jobs and conditions. “There’s no excuse for unemployment in this country- there’s heaps of work that needs doing round here- look at the state of disrepair of some of the state houses. None of the major parties have any solutions for the blight of unemployment- that’s why Matt’s demand for 3000 jobs in Mana is electric. I’m definitely thinking of switching from Labour on this one”.

Jennie from Castor Crescent is a young Maori woman who has finished a course in childcare, but can’t find any work. “There’s a lot of young working mothers here stretched trying to manage jobs and family at the same time. If there were crèches and childcare here in the community, not only would it be a big help for these mums, but it would create hundreds of jobs for childcare workers like me. It’s impossible to survive on benefits- I’m voting for Matt.”

Grandfather Sonny invited campaigners into his home to sit down with his sons. “I’ve supported the unions all my life. But the rot started in Labour with that Roger Douglas. Lange and his mob brought in GST first- I’ve never forgotten that. It’s good to now see a union man like Matt saying we should get rid of it completely. That will help working people buy more food for their kids.”

Lucas from Waihora Crescent is sick of low pay in New Zealand. “I’m already voting for Matt, bro. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a great idea- people need enough to live on, otherwise everyone is going to end up moving to Australia. It’s great to see a staunch candidate sticking up for us at last.”

Caroline and her partner are currently living in a garage in Champion Street. They’re on the waiting list for a state house. Meanwhile, there are over 30 empty houses in Cannon’s Creek counted by door knockers. Without families living in these houses, they are broken into, the windows are smashed, the copper fittings in the plumbing are ripped out and the walls kicked in. Activists are going to house Caroline’s family in one house, and set up a community crèche in another, and local unemployed electricians and carpenters are going to repair the damage. The People’s House will create an example of what full employment serving the community in Mana could look like.

There’s a real battle on in Mana over the next two weeks. A big vote for Matt will be a message to the big parties that working class people will no longer accept low pay, unfair taxes, poverty and homelessness. Now’s the time for all activists, union members and socialists to come and help us.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010



Saturday 27 November · 08:00 - 23:30
Te Wananga Aotearoa, 15 Canning Crescent, Mangere.
Registration $20.
Hosted by Unite

8.30am: Registration, Tea/coffee

9.00am: Welcome/Intros

9.15am: “Confronting the economic crisis – what caused it and how it can be overcome”.

The worldwide economic crisis over the past few years has seen a massive growth of unemployment and cutbacks in basic entitlements for working people. This session will discuss how this crisis came about and how we can fight its effects.

Speakers: Jane Kelsey, professor of law at Auckland University and author of many books exposing the effects of neoliberal economic theory on NZ will focus on the international dimension of the crisis; Mike Treen, National Director of Unite Union will focus on the impact of the crisis on NZ and how working people can resist.

11am: Activist Workshops

This will be an opportunity for a number of workshops to be held on topics suggested by activists across the country. These include the following possible subjects (some confirmed, some possible) – Casualisation of labour, workers resistance in Europe (Joe Carolan - Unite Campaigns Organiser); Maori economic elites; Tax justice campaign (Vaughan Gunson, Socialist Worker); Migrant workers; Workers resistance in Australia (Jody Betzian AMWU organizer and Socialist Alliance activist; Climate Justice & Workers Rights (Gary Cranston, Climate Camp); The Right to Strike (Jared Phillips, Unite Waikato Organiser); Campaigns against poverty and beneficiary bashing

12-1 Lunch

1pm: Poverty and inequality – can it be ended?

The growth of inequality and poverty in Aotearoa was the one unarguable effect of the neoliberal economic changes imposed over the last few decades. What happened here was mirrored around the globe. This reality barely changed under the last Labour led government and none of the major parties have a programme to seriously combat – let alone eliminate – the terrible social consequences of poverty and inequality. But can it be ended?

Speakers: John Minto (Spokesperson for Global Peace and Justice Auckland and Unite Union organizer); second speaker to be announced.

3pm: Activist Workshops

This will be an opportunity for a number of workshops to be held on topics suggested by activists across the country. These include the following subjects (some confirmed, some possible) – Casualisation of labour, workers resistance in Europe (Joe Carolan - Unite Campaigns Organiser); Maori economic elites; Tax justice campaign (Vaughan Gunson, Socialist Worker); Migrant workers; Workers resistance in Australia (Jody Betzian AMWU organizer and Socialist Alliance activist; Climate Justice & Workers Rights (Gary Cranston, Climate Camp); The Right to Strike (Jared Phillips, Unite Waikato Organiser); Campaigns against poverty and beneficiary bashing.

4pm – 6pm: “The Left and parliament – some lessons from the Alliance and Green Party experience”

Matt McCarten (Unite General secretary, former Alliance Party president), Sue Bradford (community activist and former Green Party MP)

7pm Drinks Dancing and Revolutionary Music!!!! @ Onehunga RSA